Why do we say “ça c’est” instead of “ça est”?

The word for “that” in French is “ça” and “is” is “est”, so why don’t we say “ça est” for “that is”?

I thought I’d write this short post about the phrase “ça c’est”, because I get a lot of questions asking why we say “ça c’est” rather than “ça est” when we want to say “that is”. Hopefully it’ll clear up any doubts.

C’est — it is

One of the first things we learn in the 3 Minute French course is the word “c’est”, which means “it is”. The phrase is actually a contraction of the words “ce” and “est”. The word “ce” shortens to c’ in front of words that start with a vowel, which is why we get “c’est”.

You can remove the c’ from “c’est” and you’re left with “est”, which means “is”. You can put any name or noun in front of the word “est”.

Pierre est ici Pierre is here
Marie est belle Marie is beautiful
le poulet est délicieux the chicken is delicious
le restaurant est fantastique the restaurant is fantastic
tout est bon everything is good

Ce n’est pas — it isn’t

A little later, we learnt the negative phrase, “ce n’est pas”, which means “it isn’t”. We can remove the “ce” from this phrase, and we get, “n’est pas”, which means “isn’t”. Again, you can put any name or noun in front of “n’est pas”.

Pierre n’est pas iciPierre isn’t here
Marie n’est pas belle Marie isn’t beautiful
le poulet n’est pas délicieux the chicken isn’t delicious
le restaurant n’est pas fantastiquethe restaurant isn’t fantastic
l’hôtel n’est pas bon the hotel isn’t good

Ça c’est — that is

We then learnt that the word “ça” means “that”. Logically, since “ça” means “that” and “est” means “is”, “that is” should be “ça est”. However, we learnt that “ça c’est” means “that is”. Literally, “ça c’est” means “that it is”.

The reason we say “ça c’est” rather than “ça est” is simply because it sounds nicer. If you say, “ça est”, you’ll notice that there’s a little gap in the middle; it’s called a glottal stop. The French don’t really like the glottal stop, so they’ll avoid it if they can. That’s why they say “ça c’est”; the little “s” sound in the middle avoids the glottal stop.

ça c’est fantastiquethat is fantastic
ça c’est parfait that is perfect
ça c’est délicieuxthat is delicious

I hope all that makes sense!

Merci :-)

This short lesson was taken from my course 3 Minute French — Course 1, which you can find here: https://3minutelanguages.teachable.com/p/3-minute-french-course-1

If you use the code WELCOME on checkout, you can get a huge discount

Happy learning :-)

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